Great Expectations: Will Foles follow Hoying's path?

Birds of a feather? Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, above, and Bobby Hoying, below, invite comparisons. Hoying excited the faithful with several strong performances late in 1997 before fizzling out a year later. Could Foles meet the same fate?
Birds of a feather? Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, above, and Bobby Hoying, below, invite comparisons. Hoying excited the faithful with several strong performances late in 1997 before fizzling out a year later. Could Foles meet the same fate? (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 12, 2012

It isn't fair, really, the way Bobby Hoying has become shorthand for epic quarterback disappointment.

As in: Will Nick Foles be the next franchise quarterback? Or will he be the next Bobby Hoying?

Like Foles, Hoying became the great hope for Eagles fans in an otherwise disappointing season. Like Foles, Hoying was a third-round pick. And now that Foles has delivered a thrilling, final-second victory, Hoying's name is whispered in cautionary tones by fans and media who don't want to get burned again.

That's understandable, but it overlooks the real story behind Hoying's disastrous 1998 season. And because most people have forgotten the details, they fail to grasp the really relevant lesson from the Hoying episode.

It isn't "beware young quarterbacks who look good for a few games." It's more like "beware of making coaching and other important decisions based on young quarterbacks who look good for a few games."

That is a subtle but significant difference. It is possible for a QB to play above his true level for long enough to generate unreasonable expectations. It happened with Hoying in 1997. It also happened with Ty Detmer in '96 and again with A.J. Feeley in 2002.

The Eagles got lucky with Feeley. They had an established starter that year and were able to parlay Feeley's month of quality football into a trade with Miami. They didn't get as lucky with Detmer and Hoying.

Detmer went 7-4 as a starter after Rodney Peete was hurt in '96. Based on that, Detmer was named the No. 1 QB going into '97. He was 2-5, eventually giving way to Peete and ultimately Hoying.

Hoying excited the city with strong performances in the final six games. He threw 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had a passer rating of 83.8. His record was 2-3-1, but the final loss was a 35-32 shootout at Washington.

Named the starter in 1998, Hoying went 1-6, throwing nine interceptions and exactly zero touchdowns. His rating was just 45.6. He was traded to Oakland and never started another NFL game.

A failure, right? Well, consider a few other factors.

Offensive coordinator Jon Gruden left the Eagles after that '97 season. Ray Rhodes replaced him with the relatively unknown Dana Bible. The team also lost running back Ricky Watters. Center Steve Everitt broke his foot and missed the beginning of the season. Irving Fryar, the team's best wide receiver, skipped offseason workouts because of dissatisfaction with his contract.

Worse yet, Hoying had an emergency appendectomy in the spring. He had to go back into the hospital weeks later to address an infection that set in. He lost weight and strength and never really looked right that year.

He was handed the keys to the ugliest, rustiest jalopy in the NFL lot and then was blamed when it broke down.

It would be almost impossible to replicate that adversity for Foles. The worst thing that could happen - Jeff Lurie keeping Andy Reid on for another year of dysfunction - wouldn't qualify. On his worst days, Reid remains a pretty good offensive coach. If Foles can get through 2012 unscathed, he won't be ruined by whatever 2013 might bring.

The mistake would be for Lurie to base his coaching decisions on Foles. If the kid is the real thing, he'll be fine working with any quality offensive coaching staff. Indeed, he would be better off with coaches willing to make full use of running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown.

And if Foles isn't the right guy, retaining Reid wouldn't change that. It would only mean tossing another season on the heap with 2011 and 2012. This team needs new approaches on defense and special teams, and Reid hasn't exactly handled those areas well the last couple years.

Hoying's '97 performance papered over the foundational cracks that had formed on Rhodes' watch. Those cracks, not Hoying, were the real reasons for the collapse of 1998.

That is the lesson to learn from the Hoying episode. Foles' best chance to avoid Hoying's fate is to be part of a fresh, positive start - that, and a healthy appendix.


Phil Sheridan:

Great Eagles Hopes

Nick Foles vs. Bobby Hoying: Their rookie seasons.

Bobby Hoying, 1997       Nick Foles, 2012   

7     Games   5   

128     Completions   113   

225     Attempts   184   

1,573     Yards   1,174   

11     Touchdowns   4   

6     Interceptions   3   

83.0    Rating   80.3   


Contact Phil Sheridan at psheridan@phillynews.com, or @Sheridanscribe on Twitter.

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